The future stars of European basketball learned some valuable lessons about the game at the annual Euroleague Basketball Adidas Next Generation Tournament Players Educational Session, which focused on giving the players tips about their motivation for playing the game as well as dealings off the court in terms of business and fan interaction.
All eight teams from the ANGT were given the chance to mingle at the courtyard setting of the Dorkol Platz in Belgrade before hearing presentations from Euroleague Basketball, Adidas and two-time EuroLeague champion Nikola Vujcic.
Alex Ferrer Kristjansson, Senior Director, Marketing & Communications for Euroleague Basketball, talked about the importance of the players interacting with fans, the need for players to feel comfortable in the spotlight, and the advisability that they be authentic in their dealings with fans and media.
"These players are about to cross the door into their main teams, so this is a good time for them to get advice to understand where they are going," Ferrer said.
Adidas's presentation talked about how the company deals a lot with many other sports throughout the world and urged the players to be creative and innovative. The tournament – and the educational session – also provides the players with a chance to interact others from teams spread around Europe.
"This also gives them the opportunity to mingle," Jelena Soce, Senior Sports Marketing Manager for Global Basketball at Adidas, said. "The guys get here and play each other, but they don't really get a chance to really meet each other. What is a tournament about? Of course you want to win that title but you also want to give the kids a chance to meet each other and see other cultures."
Vujcic meanwhile talked to the players about the proper focus in terms of being a professional athlete – to concentrate on winning titles.
"Choose your dreams, make sure your dreams are correct," said Vujcic, who won two EuroLeague titles as a player with Maccabi Tel Aviv and also one as Maccabi's general manager. "Hard work is the most important thing. Respect your coaches, even if you don't like them. They have your best in mind and want to help you."
Vujcic told the players to be aware of how they act at all times – both on and off the court.
"We know everything about you," he said. "We in management want people who our kids will want to have as role models."
The former EuroLeague great relished in the opportunity to talk to the future stars of the game.
"I tried to give them some of the right things to do or think. Hopefully I helped one or two of the kids about how to think in the future for their careers from my experience. These are great kids and great talents and for sure they are the future of the EuroLeague," he said.
The messages definitely hit home with many of the players.
"Everything was important – even the business part," Pedro Barros from U18 Divina Seguros Joventut Badalona said. "For me, the most important information was from Nikola. He has been at the highest level so these things come from someone who has been there. For us, it feels like motivation. The guy is here and we feel important. He is giving advice to us."
Yohan Choupas, the captain of the U18 CFBB Paris team, said one of the most important things he learned was to keep the focus on basketball and all of the side things will come from that.
"It's interesting to hear their lessons because we are young," Choupas said. "We have to learn what we have to do to become professionals. You reflect on what you are doing right now and that is a big help."